Archive for Edmond Greville

You Need Hands

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2010 by dcairns

I needed the obscure 60s remake of THE HANDS OF ORLAC, since it appears in Denis Gifford’s big green book of horror movies, and you know what that means. Sending off for an out-of-print VHS, I awaited the thing’s arrival with a certain lack of enthusiasm — I had actually seen bits of it years ago, and found it, well, terribly boring.

It’s amazing the difference a few years can make. But, on the other hand, THE HANDS OF ORLAC is still just as boring as it always was. Director Edmond T Greville was responsible for BEAT GIRL the previous year, which is eighteen separate kinds of HOOT, but how much of its unquestionably mad merits can be credited to the director? OK, he wrote the story too, and he must get credit for wrestling Gillian Hills, David Farrar, Christopher Lee, Oliver Reed and Adam Faith into the one movie. But his visual style is often pretty flat, his control of pace sometimes flaccid, and those negative qualities are allowed to dominate ORLAC.

You know the story — concert pianist Stephen Orlac (gangling meerkat Mel Ferrer) suffers horrific injuries to his hands in an accident, and a brilliant surgeon repairs the damage — but has he done so by transplanting the hands of a murderer? And will those hands resume their homicidal career from the ends of their new wrists?

No, and no. But getting to that answer is a protracted and largely tension-free drag, enlivened only by the appearance or lovely couple Chris Lee and Dany Carrel. Lee is a criminally inclined stage magician and Carrel his chanteuse squeeze, whom he persuades to seduce the fugitive Ferrer. Chris and Dany have a genuinely warm and delightful relationship:

“You made me into a slut, ” she accuses. Lee counters that she didn’t need much pushing. Charming.

Dany gets Mel’s interest by blundering into his room and having the front of her dress collapse in his face. This is typical behaviour of the rather adorable Ms. Carrel, who spent her career popping out, as in this perverse moment from MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN, a colourful yet turgid French horror —

It’s a strain, but she manages it. As early as 1957, in Duvivier’s POT-BOUILLE, she was bursting her bodice in Gerard Philippe’s direction (her co-star was Danielle Darrieux: Dany might not be able to out-act this living legend, but she could beat her in the random nudity department), and you can see her in archive footage in the new documentary about Henri-Georges Clouzot’s L’ENFER, again managing a nip-slip, I believe it’s called, setting off a chain of reactions in a lakeside restaurant. It’s a cheesy idea, one would think, but Clouzot gets some simply incredible stuff out of it, his camera gliding decisively from one glance to another. Vulgarity + excellence = Clouzot.

Sexy bad guys Chris and Dany are so much more exciting than protags Ferrer and Lucile Saint-Simon that one wishes for a whole other movie centering on the bad guys. Greville’s screenplay doesn’t provide this, of course, and it short-changes us out of the expected pleasure of an ORLAC movie also, wasting the great moment where the villain dresses up as an executed killer, brought back from the dead and demanding the return of his hands. Lee pops up in a crappy rubber mask, sporting a pair of hooks, then whips the disguise off within seconds.

But then, the movie’s explicit demonstration that Ferrer’s idée fixe (having the hands of murderer) is only a delusion has already spoiled the plot, and without really getting inside the hero’s disturbed mind, or turning him full-on psycho and letting him kill someone, the movie has no actual narrative resources to scare us with.

An intriguing image NOT present in my VHS copy. There’s a separate, uncensored French cut? What’s he going to write? Is that the first downstroke of the letter “B”, as in “BREASTS” — is he teaching her English?

So the whole mess is a valuable example of the fabled Million Dollar Mistake, or False Good Idea, in action — exposing the twist before the climax leaves the film without a motor to drive it forward, since we can assume a happy ending for the nice, middle-class hero and heroine, and a less-than happy one for the declassé du of Lee and Carrel. And we get both… eventually.

Quote of the Day: Beat Architecture

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , on January 17, 2008 by dcairns

eat to the beat 

‘I call it City 2000. Crime, filth, poverty, hustle and bustle — these things would be unknown. An almost silent place. Soundproofed with the use of flying bevelled walls of concrete, which also serve to cut wind and rain. Jennifer says it’ll be like living in a tin can, but, eh… I don’t think that’s really true. You know, psychologists think that most human neuroses come from too much contact with other humans. Now, in my city, a man can be as alone as if he were ten thousand miles from anywhere in the country…’

~ David Farrar in BEAT GIRL

beat it

Script by Dail Ambler, directed by Edmond T. Greville.

Farrar is always Mister Commonsense (which is why it’s more interesting to see him be neurotic and angsty in THE SMALL BACK ROOM) even when straddling a donkey the size of Deep Roy (which he does, in BLACK NARCISSUS). So he makes a compelling case for this le Corbusier-derived hellhole. If he’d puffed thoughtfully on a pipe at the same time, I’d be ready to buy a lease right away.

“Delta City: The Future Is NOW.” ~ ROBOCOP.

Euphoria #21

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 17, 2008 by dcairns

The Euphoria shows no sign of subsiding here at Shadowplay. We are always OVER THE MOON here from watching these great clips, even when we go to the bathroom.

Duncan Aitchison, my film quiz running-mate (and uncrowned TEAM LEADER) suggested a bunch of great stuff, including this mighty scene of a young Oliver Reed DANCING from Edmond T. Greville’s seminal sixties juvie melodrama BEAT GIRL, which will also provide our Quote of the Day (a Shadowplay first!).

Fiona says Ollie Reed dances like I do, which I take to refer to his lack of co-ordination, weirdness of movement, and marked tendency to respond to unknown music in his own head rather than to the soundtrack provided for us mortals by John Barry and his Seven.

This is right before Barry started scoring Bond films, and his style has evolved from the rather random imitations of different commercial pop styles, and the annoying pizzicato noodlings of his earlier work. What we have here is just a hair away from the full-on Bondian torch-song brassy blast, and I FIND IT MAGNIFICENT.

Oliver Reed’s dancing makes me feel PROUD TO BE BRITISH. I think his only other connection to the medium of dance is his tiny cameo as a camp ballet dancer in Basil Dearden and Bryan Forbes’ marvellous crime caper THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN. Nobody’s idea of a gay prancer, Ollie stepped into that role at the last minute and made it his own.

“Do you want Moody 1, Moody 2 or Moody 3?” Ollie would ask Michael Winner, and it’s that lowering Heathcliffian menace that he’s been hired for here, not his terpsichorean dexterity. I like how he manages to preserve his essential Rugged Solemnity even while capering like a loon.

BEAT GIRL stars Gillian Hills, a sort of Brit-brat-Bardot, as the daughter of awful architect David Farrar (best known for riding a TINY DONKEY in BLACK NARCISSUS: his feet touch the ground when he straddles it, so he can make it go just by walking above it) who falls in with beatniks and strippers and Adam Faith (who exudes Proletarian Adenoidal Suavity — a STAR).

Nigel and sexiness

Sleaze is trowelled on by a nubile Christopher Lee and the reliably button-eyed psychosis of Nigel Green, both of whom I love more than oxygen. Plus there’s those strippers. Most of the onstage undressing is very mild and half-hearted, certainly less impressive than the same year’s EXPRESSO BONGO, but one number, by “Pascaline”, is a sizzler. Perhaps thinking that the dancer’s dusky complexion would render her gyrations safely asexual, in the way that naked National Geographic “savages” were the only kind of photographic nude permissable for years, the filmmakers let this former Crazy Horse artiste unleash her pelvis like a randy bronco, all over our screen. Alas, the censors fairly fell over themselves to truncate Pascaline’s masturbatory movements, but in these permissive naughty naughties, the film has been restored with all this previously unseen frottage.

But my other favourite favourite thing in this film — no, not a FILM exactly, more a PAGEANT OF ASSORTED MATERIÉLS, is David Farrar’s CITY 2000 — of which more anon.

Footnote: Duncan has chosen this scene because of his nostalgic-patriotic love of a particular British sleaze/romance, as embodied by his favourite line in David Cronenberg’s SPIDER: Gabriel Byrne’s silky come-on: “You wanna go down the allotments?”